<the> playwright Vaclav Havel

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
(3) He was shot by the archer, John Black.
(......)
(4) He was shot by John Black, the archer.
(......)
(7) The drama was written by the playwright Vaclav Havel. (Like (3) and (4) above)
Articles with appositives

The article seems to say that '7' is the same as '3' and '4'. But is it really true? I would not the article in '7' at all unless we put a comma there. What do you think?
Thank you.
 
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    No comma is needed in the sentence about Havel, since Havel is an internationally known playwright. (And the article "the" is optional.)

    The same would be true in your first example if John Black were a world-famous archer. With the comma, it tells us that the name of the archer who shot him is John Black.

    Your second example suggests to me that there is more than one person named John Black who might be known to the reader, and this says the writer is talking about the John Black who is an archer.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    No comma is needed in the sentence about Havel, since Havel is an internationally known playwright. (And the article "the" is optional.)
    The article also says:
    "He was shot by archer John Black.
    This sentence is also correct. The implication is that John Black is a very famous archer, one that everyone knows of."
    Do I correctly understand that we may put article THE here -- and the meaning will still remain the same?
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    The source you quoted, Vik, discusses sentences about people and their occupations, so the assumed degree of celebrity is one possible reason for choosing between a definite or indefinite or zero article. But it's certainly not the only possible reason. For example, sentences (3) and (4) might not suggest that "John Black is quite a famous archer" at all! The definite article might be used simply because the archer has been previously mentioned (a standard use of the definite article, as I'm sure you know): he may in fact be the least famous archer in the world.

    I'm afraid I find the answer given on that site rather misleading. (Still, I see 'longman' in the URL, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.:rolleyes:)

    Although it's essentially about articles with appositives, the writer also refers to the need (or not) for commas. Unfortunately he or she is very inconsistent, as you noticed in the case of the claim that (7) is "like (3) and (4)". But for (3) and (4) it's said that "you need the comma", and yet (7) doesn't have one! Well spotted, Vik! The same inconsistency occurs in (5), where "baseball player, Joe DiMaggio" (with a comma) is given as similar to "archer John Black" (no comma)

    What the writer doesn't mention at all is that a comma in such sentences indicates that what follows is (grammatically) non-restrictive:
    - "He was shot by the archer, (whose name, by the way, was) John Black." — Even without that added fact, the main statement, "He was shot by the archer", stands in its own right.
    - "He was shot by John Black, (who, by the way, was) the archer." — Even without the added fact, the main statement, "He was shot by John Black", stands in its own right.

    Without a comma, the noun phrase in apposition is restrictive:
    - "The drama was written by the playwright Vaclav Havel." Here the playwright's name isn't incidental. It's essential to the main statement. "The drama was written by the playwright" wouldn't make much sense on its own. In effect "the playwright Vaclav Havel" can be considered as a single noun phrase: so no comma.

    "He was shot by archer John Black.
    [...]

    Do I correctly understand that we may put article THE here -- and the meaning will still remain the same?
    For me, yes, and yes. The form without "the" is a similar construction to that of a title or rank (archer John Black, Colonel James White), and this may be the idea lurking behind sentence (8) in your link ("... playwright Vaclav Havel before he became President Vaclav Havel") — but personally I don't feel that the presence or absence of "the" makes any real difference here. As Parla says, it's optional in this case.

    Ws
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you Parla
    and Ws for such a detailed answer!

    A couple of questions
    1)
    The form without "the" is a similar construction to that of a title or rank (archer John Black, Colonel James White),
    Yes, I thought this was the only way of saying "occupation/rank + name". So when we say "He was shot by THE archer John Black", 'the' refers to 'archer' only. The same way when you say "you need the preposition ON here" (THE refers to 'preposition'). Am I right?

    2)
    The same inconsistency occurs in (5), where "baseball player, Joe DiMaggio" (with a comma) is given as similar to "archer John Black" (no comma)
    This thing is confusing me. The whole sentence is:
    "She was married to baseball player, Joe DiMaggio."
    But, as you said, "a comma in such sentences indicates that what follows is (grammatically) non-restrictive". Hence: "She was married to baseball player." is supposed to work on its own, right? Without an article...?:confused:
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    This thing is confusing me. The whole sentence is:
    "She was married to baseball player, Joe DiMaggio."
    No. Either "a baseball player, Joe DiMaggio" OR, since he was a well-known player, "baseball player Joe DiMaggio" with no article and no comma. I would use the latter.


    "She was married to baseball player." is supposed to work on its own, right?
    No. If that's the complete sentence (and I assume it is, since you've put a period after "player"), you must use the indefinite article: "a baseball player".

    In sum, the correct sentences:
    She was married to a baseball player.
    She was married to a baseball player, Joe DiMaggio.
    She was married to baseball player Joe DiMaggio.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    No. Either "a baseball player, Joe DiMaggio" OR, since he was a well-known player, "baseball player Joe DiMaggio" with no article and no comma. I would use the latter.



    No. If that's the complete sentence (and I assume it is, since you've put a period after "player"), you must use the indefinite article: "a baseball player".

    In sum, the correct sentences:
    She was married to a baseball player.
    She was married to a baseball player, Joe DiMaggio.
    She was married to baseball player Joe DiMaggio.
    So, at least one example in that Longman article is simply wrong:)
    But, as to question '1)' -- He was shot by THE archer John Black -- article THE here goes with 'archer', i.e. it's a specific archer -- John Black. Is it right?
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    So when we say "He was shot by THE archer John Black", 'the' refers to 'archer' only. The same way when you say "you need the preposition ON here" (THE refers to 'preposition'). Am I right?
    I would say yes, you're right, because if you omitted "archer" you wouldn't say "the John Black"; (though I'm not sure what difference that makes to anything).

    This thing is confusing me. The whole sentence is:
    "She was married to baseball player, Joe DiMaggio."
    But, as you said, "a comma in such sentences indicates that what follows is (grammatically) non-restrictive". Hence: "She was married to baseball player." is supposed to work on its own, right? Without an article...?:confused:
    I agree with your reasoning, Vik, and since "She was married to baseball player" doesn't work, that leads to the conclusion that the sentence with the comma isn't correct — as Parla has explained.

    But, as to question '1)' -- He was shot by THE archer John Black -- article THE here goes with 'archer', i.e. it's a specific archer -- John Black. Is it right?
    Yes.

    Ws
     
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